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Celtic Traditions: Lughnasadh

Our Scottish ancestry is rich in Celtic traditions

The Celts follow an Earth based seasonal wheel. The Celtic year is divided into two halves, the dark beginning with Samhain and the light beginning with Beltane. In between these are Imbolc and Lughnasadh/Lammas. These key points of the Celtic year were recognized as doorways, when the veil between the worlds are thinnest.

These quarters are further divided by the solstices and equinoxes:  Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumn Equinox. These were referred to as the Albans.

We’re all familiar with the solstices as they are noted as the longest (summer) and shortest (winter) days of the year. The word is derived from the Latin sol meaning sun and sistere meaning to stand still.

Equinoxes also occur twice a year, when day and night are equal lengths. In fact, the word is derived from the Latin aequus meaning equal and nox meaning night.

Today is Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nah-sah in Ireland or LOO-nah-soo in Scotland)

Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas, pronounced LAH-mahss) is a cross quarter day between Litha and Mabon falling on August 1st but like other Celtic festivals it is celebrated on its eve, July 31st. A festival of Lugh, Celtic god of light and son of the Sun. The Sun God transfers his power into the grain and is sacrificed when the grain is harvested.

We see the desires we had at the start of the year unfold. Lughnasadh is for celebrating the first fruits of harvest. The grain is cut, part is used for bread and immediate consumption while another part is stored and used as seeds for the next spring.

Thoughts about sacrifice, transformation, death, and rebirth are also part of Lughnasadh.

Decorate your home with wheat (or any grain really), corn dollies, bread, sunflowers, and calendulas (pot marigolds). Scents to include are meadowsweet (or mead wort) and mint.

Here are some activities to try:

  • Walk through the woods, spend time meditating in beautiful surroundings
  • Making bread
  • Make a wicker man and put all of the bad habits you want to be rid of inside him and throw him into the bonfire
  • Make corn dollies (here’s a How-To YouTube video:  Corn Dolly for Lammas)

In the Scottish Highlands, when the cattle were brought down to the valley from their summer pastures on the hills, women would gave a small cheese of curds made from that day’s milk for luck and good-will. The Lammas cheese was probably a kind of crowdie. Caraway seeds can be added to the recipe below to give it the authentic flavoring.

Crowdie
Put two pints (40 fl. oz.) of freshly sour or thick milk into a pan and place on a slow heat and watch until it curdles. Do not allow the milk to simmer or boil otherwise the curds will harden. When the curd sets let it cool before you attempt draining the whey.

Line a colander with a clean muslin cloth and transfer the curds into it and leave until most of the whey has drained before squeezing the last of the whey out by hand. Mix the crowdie with a little salt until it has a smooth texture. Now blend the crowdie with a little cream and place the mixture in a dish and allow to rest in a refrigerator.

In Scotland, the first fruits were celebrated by the making of a ‘bonnach lunastain’ or Lunasdál bannock, or cake. Here is a modern recipe you can try:

Pitcaithly Bannock
1 cup flour
½ cup butter
¼ cup sugar
1/8 cup chopped almonds
1/8 cup mixed candied peel

Set oven to 325F. Grease a baking sheet. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the sugar and butter and rub in to form a dough. Add the almonds and mix in the peel, making sure they are evenly distributed. Form into a thick round on a lightly floured surface and prick all over with a fork. Place on the sheet and bake for about 45-60 minutes. Allow to cool and serve sliced thinly and buttered.

And that, folks, completes the Celtic Wheel of the year. I hope you’ve enjoyed these little pieces of our heritage and have found something old to enrich your life.

Cheers!

Sherri Siggy

Celtic Traditions: Litha

Our Scottish ancestry is rich in Celtic traditions

The Celts follow an Earth based seasonal wheel. The Celtic year is divided into two halves, the dark beginning with Samhain and the light beginning with Beltane. In between these are Imbolc and Lughnasadh/Lammas. These key points of the Celtic year were recognized as doorways, when the veil between the worlds are thinnest.

These quarters are further divided by the solstices and equinoxes:  Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumn Equinox. These were referred to as the Albans.

We’re all familiar with the solstices as they are noted as the longest (summer) and shortest (winter) days of the year. The word is derived from the Latin sol meaning sun and sistere meaning to stand still.

Equinoxes also occur twice a year, when day and night are equal lengths. In fact, the word is derived from the Latin aequus meaning equal and nox meaning night.

Today is Litha (pronounced LEE-tha)

Here we are, at the peak of the Solar year. Litha (mid-summer) is the summer solstice, astronomically the longest day of the year, and falls between June 21st and 22nd.

The Goddess is pregnant with Child and the Sun God is at the height of His virility. This is a time to celebrate achievements, embrace the abundance of the Earth, and experience the joys of fertility.

Fire represents the sun, a constant and daily reminder of the power of the God. In ancient times, Celts would light balefires on hills and sacred places from sunset the night before Midsummer until the sunset of the following day. They would stay up all night, dancing around or leaping through the fires, to welcome the sunrise. Afterwards, the coals would be scattered in the fields to ensure a good harvest.

Today, especially if a cloudy or rainy day, a candle should be lit for the entire day.

Litha was the time to formalize handfastings, couples together for a year and a day, from the previous Beltane. A time to renew wedding vows.

Decorate your home with dried herbs, potpourri, seashells, summer flowers, and fruits. Scents to include are sage, mint, basil, Saint John’s Wort, sunflower, lavender.

How about giving one of these a try?

  • Build a sundial
  • Make Lavender Syrup (here’s one such recipe:  Lavender Simple Syrup)
  • Wildcrafting in the woods (grab a book or pamphlet on local edible herbs and berries you can forage)
  • Hit the beach (gather shells, bits of driftwood, or other interesting goodies you can use for magic)
  • Litha is all about the sunny weather – get outside and enjoy it!

May your joys be contagious to others today and always!

Sherri Siggy

TODAY IN HISTORY: William and Jessie Wedding

1901 Wedding Pic William John and Jessie Gray (Beattie) Watson EDINBURGHWilliam  John Watson (Factory Worker), 30 years of age, married 25 year-old Jessie Gray Beattie (Domestic Servant) on May 2, 1902 at 60 West Holmes Street Gardens, Mussellburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland. His pre-wedding address was 8 Dewar Place in Edinburgh, while hers was 36 Melville Street. In a romantic gesture, they named their only son Melville, remembering where Willie would go to meet his beloved Jessie when she had time off from work.

This is their wedding photo at left.

1902 Marriage Register WIlliam John Watson and Jessie Gray Beattie MUSSELBURG

Celtic Traditions: Beltane

Our Scottish ancestry is rich in Celtic traditions

The Celts follow an Earth based seasonal wheel. The Celtic year is divided into two halves, the dark beginning with Samhain and the light beginning with Beltane. In between these are Imbolc and Lughnasadh/Lammas. These key points of the Celtic year were recognized as doorways, when the veil between the worlds are thinnest.

These quarters are further divided by the solstices and equinoxes:  Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumn Equinox. These were referred to as the Albans.

We’re all familiar with the solstices as they are noted as the longest (summer) and shortest (winter) days of the year. The word is derived from the Latin sol meaning sun and sistere meaning to stand still.

Equinoxes also occur twice a year, when day and night are equal lengths. In fact, the word is derived from the Latin aequus meaning equal and nox meaning night.

Today is Beltane (generally pronounced BELL-tane though the Gaelic is bee-YAWL-tinnuh)

Beltane is counter to Samhain. Beltane is a cross quarter day between Ostara and Litha falling on May 1st but like other Celtic festivals it is celebrated on its eve, April 30th.

Celebrating the triumph of summer over winter, Beltane rejoices in the union, both that of the Goddess and the God as well as that between man and woman. Celebrating fertility and sexuality. Beltane is a season of maturing life and deep love, a time of vow and commitments. Handfastings were common at Beltane.

For Celts, Beltane is a joyous festival that marks the time of beginnings in Celtic myth and legend and the arrival of faeries.

New fires are created from the power of fire within wood, such as a well-seasoned oak: The fire, termed tein-eigan: a forced- or need-fire, is elicited by means of turning a wimble in a socket or an axle-tree in a hole, creating fire through friction, and the first sparks are caught in kindling and the new fire, like that of the new summer, would be born: The old year fires are extinguished as a preamble and embers of the new fire would be brought into the homes to rekindle the hearth (Frazer, J. 1890, 1922).

Decorate your home with a Maypole, flowers, and ribbons. Scents to include are lilac and frankincense.

Give it a try —
  • Stoke a “bonfire” — candles, a fireplace, an outdoor fire pit, anything you have on hand will do.
  • Attend a May Day celebration.
  • Dance wildly.
  • Spring has sprung…get outside and enjoy nature.
  • Make a faerie offering.
  • Engage in a pleasure ritual.

A blessed Beltane to you all ~ 

Sherri Siggy